And why not? They have a lot of it:
Vitharana had told the newspaper that Sri Lanka had Thorium deposits in the Western coast of the island from Beruwala to Negombo, which is an areas stretching South and North of the capital, Colombo.
What they don't have is the technology to use it, but luckily their neighbors to the north, also with piles of the stuff, is trying to make it plausible:
"The Indians have developed a technology to enrich Thorium as a source of energy to produce electricity," minister Vitharana was quoted as saying. "They are on the verge of commissioning a reactor for power generation in India using Thorium as main resource."
This is all at the chatter level - literally, with Sri Lanka and India broaching the subject at the IAEA's annual conference - and pretty abstract - Thorium has gotten over some impressive technical hurdles, but there are other issues to consider, especially:
- the high cost of fuel fabrication, due partly to the high radioactivity of U-233 chemically separated from the irradiated thorium fuel. Separated U-233 is always contaminated with traces of U-232 (69 year half life but whose daughter products such as thallium-208 are strong gamma emitters with very short half lives);
- the similar problems in recycling thorium itself due to highly radioactive Th-228 (an alpha emitter with two-year half life) present;
- some weapons proliferation risk of U-233 (if it could be separated on its own); and
- the technical problems (not yet satisfactorily solved) in reprocessing solid fuels.
Where thorium represents an opportunity - and, as noted in a post below, come to the attention of the American government via high-profile legislation - is its abundance, estimated to be three times that of uranium (about on par with lead) and perhaps even more - the element's relative lack of utility has constrained any major search for veins.
About that legislation. This popped out at us amongst its findings:
((6)(A) thorium fuel cycle technology was originally developed in the United States; and (B) cutting-edge research relating to thorium fuel cycle technology continues to be carried out by entities in the United States.
Not untrue, but odd to note this as a bona fide. Would its value be less if the French got there first?
Map of Sri Lanka. Since the country has held itself aloof from entities like The World Bank and International Monetary Fund - to its credit, perhaps? - the money to build a plant might be hard to come by. A thorium plant is, no matter how you slice it, capital intensive. Then again, the value of thorium itself may pick up considerably.